Slash Transport Secretary's pay after East Coast Main Line debacle, urges Labour

Labour has called on the Government to slash Transport Secretary Chris Grayling's pay by £2,400 after the East Coast Main Line debacle.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald moved the motion in the Commons, telling MPs that Mr Graying had "fallen desperately short" in his handling of the franchise agreement with Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC).

Last week, Mr Grayling announced that services on the line would be overseen by the Department for Transport (DfT) from June 24 after it emerged that VTEC had "got their bid wrong" and could no longer operate the franchise.

In a scathing attack, Mr McDonald accused the Transport Secretary of being "asleep at the wheel" and said he was "incapable of being direct with Members of Parliament and the public alike".

He said: "Stagecoach knew they wouldn't meet their revenue targets weeks after taking over the East Coast in March 2015; the company was in constant dialogue with the department about it.

"The Secretary of State has been in post since July 2016 and must have known about this for that period of time. Why did he do nothing? Hasn't this Transport Secretary been asleep at the wheel?"

He added: "The strategic vision embodies a Secretary of State's approach to his ministerial brief and to announcements in this House, smoke, mirrors, ambiguities, jargon, technicalities, empty aspirations and discourtesy.

"Like his time at justice, this Secretary of State must hope that he be moved on before his wrecking ball approach to decisions at the DfT reveal their true horrors.

"This Secretary of State seems to be incapable of being direct with Members of Parliament and the public alike.

"Given his track record, is it any wonder that no-one takes the East Coast partnership seriously? Where on earth did he come up with it? In the back of a taxi on the way to Parliament to deliver his statement?"

Virgin trains
Virgin Trains is the third private operator to fail to complete the full length of a contract to run services on the East Coast route (Martin Keene/PA)

VTEC is the third private operator to fail to complete the full length of a contract to run services on the East Coast route.

GNER was stripped of the route in 2007 after its parent company suffered financial difficulties, while National Express withdrew in 2009.

Services were run by the DfT for six years until VTEC took over in 2015.

Mr McDonald went on to welcome the move to bring the East Coast back under control of the DfT, telling MPs the franchising model is "totally broken, it's finished, it's a dead parrot, it is no more".

Mr Grayling dismissed Labour's motion, turning to Tory backbenchers to say it was "a lot incoherence".

He said: "I'm not going to go through line by line the process I've been through in the last few months to reach what I believe is the right position for taxpayers and passengers and employees.

"I have been struck by how little Labour understands how the process for a situation like this has to be managed and indeed how little they appear to understand the financial structure of franchising or rail laws or the fact that Government has to operate within the legalities of the contracts and the laws that exist."

The motion to slash Mr Grayling's pay by £2,400 was set to be voted on by MPs on Wednesday afternoon.

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